- Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Revolver (Super Deluxe - 2022) Official album.
- EMI Studios, Abbey Road
More from year 2022
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Beginning in 2017, Giles Martin embarked on a mission to bring a contemporary sound to the Beatles album, aligning these remixes with the 50th anniversaries of their original releases. This journey of sonic rejuvenation started with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in 2017, followed by the White Album in 2018, Abbey Road in 2019, and Let It Be in 2020, though the latter’s release shifted to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Remixing the albums recorded before “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” presented a unique set of challenges. Up until “Revolver,” the Beatles primarily utilized 4-track recording machines. This method often resulted in multiple instruments being recorded on a single track, complicating efforts to individually adjust or enhance specific instruments. This situation persisted to some degree in later albums like “Sgt. Pepper’s,” though the band’s shift to 8-track machines offered more flexibility.
A groundbreaking solution emerged from MAL, a state-of-the-art de-mixing technology, crafted by Emile de la Rey’s award-winning sound team at Peter Jackson’s WingNut Films Productions Ltd. Originally developed for Peter Jackson’s “Get Back” docu-series, MAL (Machine Assisted Learning) ingeniously isolates instruments recorded on a single track. The name MAL cleverly nods to both the HAL computer from “2001: A Space Odyssey” and Mal Evans, whose presence is felt throughout the “Get Back” documentary.
Giles Martin harnessed this innovative technology to create stereo and Dolby Atmos remixes of “Revolver” songs. As time progressed, MAL also played a pivotal role in remixing select tracks for the reissues of the Red and Blue albums. Remarkably, it even facilitated the creation of “Now And Then,” the last Beatles song released in 2023.
The dialogue editor [Emile de la Rey] was doing a really good job of removing the guitars from the dialogue, and I said to him: ‘Let’s have a look at Revolver. Can you separate the guitar, bass and drums?’ He did a rough pass and it was so much better than anything I’ve ever heard. I said: ‘OK, we need to work on this’, and it got to a stage where it became extraordinarily good.Giles Martin – From BBC News, October 22, 2022
[The de-mixing process] has to learn what the sound of John Lennon’s guitar is, for instance, and the more information you can give it, the better it becomes. So we were going through the tapes just looking for bits where someone played a guitar with no-one else playing – and that’s how the computer can can go: ‘Okay, this is what I’ll extract’. But all that means is that, when people listen to the record, the band don’t have to be on each other’s lap.Giles Martin – From BBC News, October 22, 2022
Ken Micallef: What accounts for the fleshed-out mix of the new Revolver? Is it modern technology applied to old tapes?
Giles Martin: It’s just good mixing. I’m not adding digitally enhanced frequencies. I am mixing on a digital system. You can’t mix from tape into that. But these recordings have depth. We’re stripping things back. The difference is what I and Sam Okell do: We take different elements and rerecord them back through Studio Two at Abbey Road. The walls in that room are the walls of Studio Two in Abbey Road, so we can add some room sound to things. We have that element, but that’s not a digital effect. That’s just me recording something and playing it back.
KM: Did you listen to the original stereo vinyl pressings of Revolver as a gauge?
GM: Of course. I’d listen to the stereo remaster, the original stereo, and the mono. On my system, I have all the mixes lined up. I have a button on my desk, which I can flick between them. If I’m playing the Atmos mix, I’ll do the stereo first, then Atmos, and Atmos original stereo, just to make sure I’m not missing anything. I’m not changing the feel of a song. It’s more of an emotional thing. How close do you feel to the vocal? What impact do the drums have? It’s like remembering a book. It’s really important to get that right. It’s important that there is a difference but [that] the difference is good.
KM: What was Paul McCartney’s response to hearing the new Atmos mixes?
GM: He loved them. The thing I try and do with the band is try and get the listener closer to them, so they feel like they’re interacting. I like the idea that you’re standing in the vinyl, you’re standing in the record, and you start falling into the studio. You suddenly feel as though you are in this record, but not in a gimmicky way. I’m a music fan. I want to feel the drums and feel the guitar. It’s the same balance as I’ve listened to before, but just positionally, it’s like being part of the band now.
KM: I noticed on some of the mixes, I heard a lot of rear channel information, some were more upfront stereo. How did you make that differentiation?
GM: Depends on the content. Take “Taxman” or “Dr. Robert,” which is guitar, bass, and drums. It was all recorded together, but we’ve demixed it. You can’t put the guitar in the back, it’s the band playing. But with “Yellow Submarine,” the ocean and the sound effects, you can put that in the rear channels because they’re not part of the band’s performance. You can have the horns around you. And then the band driving in the middle. Same with backing vocals. “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the tambura can circle the room and the drums and bass can be in the front. You need that center thing to lock onto. The tape loops can go over your head or around you. Then “Paperback Writer,” which is basically a band in the studio. I can make the vocals a little wider, but they shouldn’t come from the back because they’re part of the lead vocal line. So, there’s more of a u-shape to the mix opposed to a 360. […]
KM: What else accounts for this incredible enhancement of this recording?
GM: Adding room sound was only used for the spatial audio, not for the stereo. The biggest change of technology is the demixing process, where you’re taking a track, which has a number of elements on it, and you separate those elements. It’s like being given a cake and you hand me back eggs, milk, flour, sugar, butter. […]
Peter Jackson and his crew developed technology where if you put the instrument in the computer, it can find the instrument and extract the audio. I realized that we could do this with Beatles’ tapes. As long as the computer has some sense of what the guitar sounded like, it could give you the guitar on its own. That’s the AI machine learning part of the demixing process. Which means I can then position the band on the stereo field. So, when you listen to the stereo mix, you’ll hear the band, opposed to them all being wedged into one space and compressed. And the most important thing, there’s no additional material, nothing’s being recreated or added to the record. So, if I take the guitar, bass, and drums from “Taxman” that have been separated, and run it with the original track, and I flip the phase, the audio disappears, which means that nothing is being [added], it’s exactly the same. So, despite being separated, everything is exactly the same. That’s why this Revolver mix sounds like the band’s in a room. Which is what you want. […]Giles Martin – From Stereophile.com, April 4, 2023
‘Taxman’ is the first time a George song opens up a Beatles album, and it’s obviously an iconic opening. It was the first one we started work on – it was the first one that proved to me that we could do this. It’s easy to take an album that people have known for so long for granted, and you listen to it now and think ‘oh my god this is truly groundbreaking’.Giles Martin – From nme.com, October 24, 2022
I remember mixing Strawberry Fields and the young guy working at Abbey Road with me had never heard the song before. And there’s no reason why he should. It’s bloody old. But there’s also no reason why a 26-year-old Paul McCartney shouldn’t sound like a 26-year-old does now. So essentially, what we’re doing is time travel. And I like that even now, 56 years on, we’re trying to break new ground. Because that’s what the Beatles did.Giles Martin – From BBC News, October 22, 2022
Last updated on November 12, 2023
The definitive guide for every Beatles recording sessions from 1962 to 1970.
We owe a lot to Mark Lewisohn for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - the number of takes for each song, who contributed what, a description of the context and how each session went, various photographies... And an introductory interview with Paul McCartney!